OAKLAND — A neighborhood in West Oakland can breathe easier after tests for dangerous levels of hazardous compounds in the air came back negative, according to federal environmental officials.
On Friday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency tested about a half-dozen homes, a business and a day care center near the former Lane Metal Finishers site on 30th Street and San Pablo Avenue, where the state Department of Toxic Substances Control found elevated levels of volatile organic compounds in five samples taken 8 feet below the surface of the former metal-plating location.
Bret Moxley, on-scene coordinator of the EPA's emergency response office, said Tuesday that the results of those tests showed no high levels of trichloroethylene, cis-dichloroethene, trans dichloroethene or vinyl chloride that would require the agency to take immediate action. The only location where a higher-than-normal level of any of the compounds was found — in this case, trichloroethylene — was the vacant, downstairs unit of the home closest to the site.
"The news is wonderful for everyone," said Moxley, who spent Tuesday morning telling the neighbors of the test results, as well as personally calling the neighborhood's City Council representative, Nancy Nadel, to tell her the news.
Moxley said the lower unit where a slightly higher amount of trichloroethylene was found will be cleaned by EPA officials, although the levels of the compound are far below what would be considered dangerous.
Linda Jenkins, who has lived next to the Lane Metal site since 1950 and owns the house that contains the unit with elevated levels of trichloroethylene, said she was happy with the test results, fearing something much worse would be found.
"I'm thanking God almighty," said Jenkins, who lives in the upper unit in the home. She suffers from a variety of ailments, including multiple sclerosis, diabetes and a rare blindness disease called keratoconus.
The EPA was contacted after underground samples taken by the state showed high levels of trichloroethylene, cis-dichloroethene, trans dichloroethene and vinyl chloride in the soil vapor. Soil vapor is located in the spaces between the grains of sand or soil underground. It can move through soil, but does not usually move easily through clay and silt. The old Lane Metal site had several clay layers in the soil.
EPA officials said soil, soil vapor and groundwater contamination at the Lane Metals facility is most likely the result of solvents used as degreasers during plating operations at the site dating to the 1950s.
The solvents are not uncommon at plating-shop sites.
The Department of Toxic Substances Control has been overseeing the investigation of the site since June 2007, when the county asked it to examine the site.
Reach Chris Metinko at 510-763-5418.